Critics have noted that my post about the soul of Capitol Hill didn't include the word "gay" in it. The criticism? Saying Capitol Hill hasn't lost its soul is misleading because it doesn't take into account the state of gay culture on the Hill.
For what it’s worth, the hip hop show I went to at Capitol Hill’s Neumos that nudged me to write the post in the first place starred underground hip hop lesbian icon, Syd tha Kid. It was a Sunday night. It was sold out.
If you missed my post, excited about the convergence of public transit—a new street car line and a new light rail stop—on Capitol Hill, I wrote that all the kvetching about the death of Capitol Hill diverges from the fact that the joint is jumping. And with mass transit making it more accessible, it's likely to get even more jumping.
Historically, bohemian enclaves struggle with existential dilemmas about authenticity when their exciting neighborhoods draw in more people and attention—and investment. The irony that this cycle creates, of course, is classic: As mainstream culture discovers a counterculture neighborhood (or a counterculture in general) the counterculture gets compromised. I've got no solution to the age-old phenomenon that things aren't as cool as they used to be, but I would posit (as this great New York Times opinion piece about the perpetual death of NYC's East Village explained it this past Sunday), it's all pretty subjective.
Hasn’t Capitol Hill always been a mix of gays and straights and artists and writers and bars and clubs? I’ve lived on Capitol Hill for 17 years, and complaints that straights were overrunning gay bars such as R Place and Neighbors were prevalent back then.
Certainly, the LGBTQ community is vulnerable as more mainstream revelers flock to the neighborhood. Alarmed about hate crimes, Danni Askini, the executive director of the Gender Justice League, asked the SPD to crunch the numbers and found a 56 percent increase in bias incidents in the East precinct, which includes Capitol Hill, when comparing January through September 2015 to the same period last year.
A culture clash is a likely cause for the increase. This is a scary reality, but it’s not proof that Capitol Hill no longer has soul. It's proof that the city needs public policies to make people safe. Here's one cool idea I wrote about in the magazine—pedestrian only zones—that some longtime residents (and gay performers) have endorsed.
As gay culture becomes more mixed in with mainstream culture—three cheers for the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell v Hodges ruling in June/conflicting feelings on those new rainbow crosswalks SDOT rolled out in June—the sort of sociological debates about the soul of neighborhoods and scenes like Capitol Hill will persist.
And that’s just another sign to me that—along with queer hip hop shows and transit hubs—Capitol Hill’s soul is alive and well.